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This Just In

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Sarah Grange

May 18, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Sarah Grange, the artist behind our new embroidery hoop art collection.

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Growing up my parents always encouraged me to be creative and gave me the freedom (and the craft supplies) to do so. Around 8 years old, I decided that when I grew up my best friend and I would open an art studio/veterinary office.  While my life goals have become a little more realistic over the years (i.e. I’m probably not going to veterinary school anytime soon/ever), I’m basically that same girl.  I’m still dreaming/working towards that goal of having the perfect studio where I spend every day supporting myself by doing what I love.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
Graduating college and starting my small business, Kitsch & Stitch, has been one of my greatest and most exciting accomplishments.  To look back on the past two years and see the growth that has come out of the long days and nights spent designing and embroidering is incredibly motivating.  But most of all, seeing that people appreciate my creativity and work enough that they want it in their homes is one of the most exciting and motivating aspects of what I do!  Hearing that someone loves their new embroidery hoop or that it made the perfect gift for their loved one makes my day.

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
Caffeine, good music, lots of thread and fabric, and two adorable kitties (even when they’re biting at my ankles while I work).

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
The walls and shelves in my studio are filled with art and objects that are inspiring and important to me.  I’m a bit of a collector and I love to have all sorts of art, heirlooms, and vintage knick-knacks in my space.  My antique embroidery book that belonged to my great-grandmother is one of my most treasured items.  It’s inspiring and motivating to think that women in my family have been embroidering/sewing for centuries, and here I am continuing the craft tradition (but in a very different way).

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
 “Ooo what does it do?” or “Why?”
It’s been a while since I talked to a kindergartner, but I feel like these are pretty popular questions among 3-5-year-olds.

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
It’s a toss up between “Fake it till you make it” and “If it’s not alright, then it’s not the end,” but both essentially serve the same purpose for me. I’ve found that at times when I’m feeling intimidated or having trouble believing in myself, the best plan of action is to push those thoughts aside and keep moving forward, even if I’m not totally sure of where I’m headed.  At times when I’m doubting myself or my work, these mantras get me going again.

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

 

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Matthew Hoffman

April 27, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Matthew Hoffman, the artist behind the You Are Beautiful project.

Matthew Hoffman | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I was always a tinkerer – taking things a part, modifying things, or building my own things from scratch. So, I guess making has always been in my blood. It was always low-fi woodworking and junk making. It wasn’t until a class in high school that really turned up the heat on making art and design.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
I think it’d be sharing with others. Knowing that you’re making things that people want to have in their lives is really rewarding. It fun to make the work, and to realize it’s being interacted with at home or work. I really like the idea of sneaking positive messages into the world.

Matthew Hoffman | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
Never a dull day! And, for better or worse, there’s never a typical day. It keeps things interesting. It might be designing a new piece and making files, or it might be off site on a huge build. One thing we keep in check is really trying to enjoy what we’re doing each day. Because if we’re not having fun (and adding value to the world), what’s the point?

Matthew Hoffman | UncommonGoods

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
I can’t really say that there is one. Though I wish it would be a tape measure. I own at least 20 of them, but can never find one when I need it!

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
Well, I have a first grader, so I have a pretty good idea. I try to make public work, that is accessible to everyone – no matter who you are. So the fact that kids can “get it” is pretty awesome. Much of my work is cursive, which isn’t taught in schools anymore, so I’m happy to help keep the youngsters sharp.

Matthew Hoffman | UncommonGoods

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“Anything is possible.”

Matthew Hoffman | UncommonGoods

Go for it.”

Video by Ben Derico

 Matthew Hoffman | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

This Just In: Our Top 5 Most Creative and Head-Turning Greener Materials

April 22, 2015

Back in February, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver opened his show with a hilarious segment of reporters who all agreed that “infrastructure is important, but not sexy.” As crucial as infrastructure improvements are, Oliver proclaimed that “most people actually think it’s boring!” (Unless, of course, the infrastructure is blowing up in an action movie.) But in reality, Oliver admitted that he thinks infrastructure is quite fascinating.

Greener Materials | UncommonGoods

Photo via Collectively.org

I would argue that the same holds true for manufacturing. It’s not a word that typically riles up the masses. It’s never trending on Twitter, and there isn’t an app that would make manufacturing any more sexy (with the exception of 3D Printing). Yet, the manufacturing industry touches almost everything we use. As you may have read in our latest Uncommon Design School post, in the decades preceding the first Earth Day “the manufacturing industry was more interested in making green than going green: factories belched out clouds of black smoke; toxic chemicals were dumped carelessly, polluting the soil and groundwater; and bottles, cans, and paper were all destined for the landfill after just one use.” Well, could that sound any less sexy?

Greener Materials | UncommonGoods

Photo courtesy of Barry Rosenthal’s Studio Tour

Lucky for us, this 20th century model of capitalism is becoming less and less acceptable. According to B Lab Co-Founder Jay Coen Gilbert, we are moving toward a stakeholder capitalism, where business is not only concerned about creating value for shareholders, but also concerned about creating value for society, the workforce, the community and the environment. Organizations like B Corporations are making sustainable business more important and attractive to consumers. In this way, I would argue that sustainability is one of the main factors that make manufacturing a really cool topic. Green design is only becoming more innovative and valuable than it’s ever been.

This realization got us thinking: What are some of the most surprising, head-turning green materials in our assortment this Earth Day? What are some of our newest items that make us excited to talk all things materials and manufacturing?

Reclaimed Bike Tube Rug

Reclaimed Bike Tube Rug | UncommonGoods

The Reclaimed Bike Tube Rug immediately caught my eye the day it entered our assortment. As I was reading the product description, I was particularly impressed that this artist uses the discarded bicycle tire tubes, gathered from bike shops in her area, and yarn scraps reclaimed from industrial production. I was even more intrigued how this hand woven rug seamlessly combines Old and New World techniques. But it was one concept in particular that made my head tilt sideways: this item is “waste negative,” meaning it removes waste from the environment, rather than adding to it. Brilliant!

Recycled Plastic Duck Family

Recycled Plastic Duck Family | UncommonGoods

Whereas reuse is the reinstallation of materials in their original form, recycling is the collection and remanufacture of materials into a new material or product, typically different from the original material. Handmade from recycled newspaper, recycled water bottles and clay, this Duck Family is a very creative example of attractive recycling.

Fire Hose Products

Fire Hose Products | UncommonGoods

Here at UncommonGoods, we are huge fans of upcycling, the process of converting old materials into something useful. When you upcycle an item, you aren’t breaking down the materials, but refashioning them. As the Upcycling Fashionista puts it, “upcycling only requires your own creativity and elbow grease.” Micah Landworth’s line of fire hose products is a really unique way to transform discarded materials into something beautiful and true to its original character.

Pride & Prejudice Throw

Pride and Prejudice Throw | UncommonGoods

I immediately loved this throw because P&P is one of my favorite novels and movie adaptations. What makes this throw truly special, though, is how it’s made. The makers repurpose, or adapt, pre-consumer cotton scraps, and shred and spin them into new yarn. How cool is that?

Vegetable Parchment Platter

Vegetable Parchment Platter | UncommonGoods

Artist Margaret Dorfman has been part of the UncommonGoods family for more than 15 years. She has an extensive jewelry collection that’s made by hand from over 40 different varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables that are cured, dried, pressed and aged in a 10-14 day process. She calls this Vegetable Parchment, because the texture and translucency calls to mind the vellum parchments of medieval Europe. I was really excited to see that she is expanding this technique into other products besides jewelry. Even more awesome, her new Vegetable Parchment Platters are made with recycled glass.

 

See More Recycled Gifts | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Sashee Chandran

April 20, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Sashee Chandran, the maker behind our new Tea Drop Sampler.

Sashee Chandran | UncommonGoods

Photo by Diego Jimenez/@dejota3

When did you know you wanted to work in tea?
I was always drawn to the intimate and communal nature of tea, and its ability to strengthen the bonds of friends and strangers alike. Throughout my life, I have fantasized about owning a tea shop. I even kept a little booklet on hand for when I felt inspired to write down what my tea shop would serve. Later, through my natural inclination to make, share and talk tea with others, I came across many who found the traditional tea rituals too daunting or time consuming. With these challenges to overcome, Tea Drops was born. It would be the first tea to create an all encompassing experience with the rich taste and tradition of loose tea, and a pinch of raw organic sugar for a no-fuss preparation.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming an entrepreneur?
The most exciting part is knowing that on a daily basis, I am tackling the challenge of making tea more accessible and enjoyable to people, and little by little I’m making progress on that goal. It isn’t about meeting one huge goal, it’s really about accomplishing small victories along the way. My team and I use the hashtag #smallvictories a lot, to celebrate something as simple as an easy craft fair set up to gaining a new retail account.

What does your typical day in your workspace look like?
I’m incredibly lucky to work out of a certified kitchen in the beautiful hills of Los Gatos, California. We peer out our kitchen window and have a stunning view of deer, trees, and other natural beauty as we grind our organic tea and spices. We are embraced by the delcious scents of tea and spices all day. We also have a packaging area where we prep and wrap all of our teas by hand so they are ready to be shipped and enjoyed by you!

Shashee Chandran | UncommonGoods

Photo by Diego Jimenez/@dejota3

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
I take my Khordz Mug everywhere with me. I drink an insane amount of tea per day (10-15 cups), so it’s critical I have a portable tea cup that can go anywhere with me, no matter what the activity. It’s like my blanky.

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
“Oooooh. How coool. YUMMMY, too.”

We actually have a lot of kids who come up to our booth at various craft shows, and we always demo how our Tea Drops dissolve in hot water. They are both amazed, intrigued, and love the taste as well. It’s wonderful to see parents sharing the love of tea so early on.

Sashee Chandran | UncommonGoods

Right photo by Diego Jimenez/@dejota3

 

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
I actually have many. Here are a few of my favorites:

“As you walk, the way appears.”Rumi, Persian poet and Sufi master

Fear is obviously a huge factor that can hold you back. I always love being reminded that I do not need to have all of the answers when I continue on my journey. I have to have faith that guidance will appear the more entrenched I become in my path/work.

“I don’t want no mediocre.” –T.I., Rapper

My small team and I often blast this song when prepping for a show or order, because quite frankly, we can’t tolerate medicore.

“Nothing in this world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Genius will not. Education will not. Persistence and dedication alone are omnipotent.” – President Calvin Coolidge

It’s pretty self-explanatory – persistence is key. Especially when I feel intimidated, I always have to remember that.

Video courtesy of Ezra Productions

Buy the Tea Sampler | UncommonGoods

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: How to Make Music by Playing Wine Glasses

September 27, 2013

Major Scale Musical Wine Glasses | UncommonGoods

Research
As a developer of the Major Scale Musical Wine Glasses®, my knowledge of the product is quite comprehensive, but this was my first chance to test a random unit straight off the production floor. In developing these musical glasses, we looked for a glass that would allow for a full A major scale, allowing for more versatile music-making. We used a high-quality lead-free crystal glass here to ensure the best resonance we could achieve.

I’m not a big wine drinker, but you’ll find me sneaking a swig of water every now and again – so I’m conducting this experiment with water as an alternative. I try to keep practice on my violin, but I’m much more likely to produce something resembling music with my finger on these glasses than with my bow on strings – so I’m looking forward to the chance to actually hit the right notes for a change.

Musical Wine Glass Packaging | Uncommon Goods

Hypothesis
Due to variations in glass we knew absolute, orchestral perfection was a bit too aspirational, but we have been pleased to find that the fill lines correspond quite nicely to the note indicated. My hypothesis is that I’ll have a pretty happy match today.

Experiment
Fill ‘er up! I poured to the first note – an ‘A,’ moistened my finger in another glass to allow for smooth movement around the rim, and round my finger went firmly in a circular motion. As I draw my finger around the rim, the alternating slipping and sticking creates a vibration pattern in the glass. The speed of vibration, meanwhile, is affected by the volume of liquid in the glass, and different vibrations will produce different notes. The results of my first attempt?

Playing Music on Wine Glasses

A lovely ‘A’ note resonates through the dining room, accompanied by a hypnotic ripple along the surface of the wine. As you can see…a successful ‘A’!

'A' Note

I toast to a successful first pour and continue on my journey through the A Major scale.

I poured a taller glass and around I went again.

Major Scale Musical Wine Glass | UncommonGoods

Crosschecking with another tuner – a direct hit! SuccEss with a capital ‘E’.

'E' NoteConclusion

Though slight variations in glass will yield somewhat different performance, a random test proved more than satisfactory to my unprofessional, yet music-appreciating ears. Very content and ready to wet my whistle, I toast to beautiful music with my fiancée and Franklin Broccoli, our almost-real pet bulldog.

Musical Wine Glass Toast

To see and hear these uncommon instruments make music with your own eyes and ears, check out this video of me playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Design

A Year’s Worth of Winning Designs

January 4, 2013


Happy New Year! We’re excited to see what 2013 will bring, and we have big plans for the next 12 months. We’re planning more sneak peeks Inside the Artist’s Studio, interviews with designers from across the country, behind the scenes looks at what goes on here at UncommonGoods, great gift ideas, and of course, brand new design challenges! But, before we announce our first challenge of the year, we’re taking a look back on the great designs that came to us through our 2012 design challenges and the people who created them.

Last Spring we were already thinking Summer! Our first design challenge focused on sustainable picnic ware from Susty Party. We asked illustrators to send us their summer picnic-themed art, and we saw a big batch of submissions celebrating fun in the sun!

Denae Douglas’ Bicycle design was the judges’ favorite, earning her the grand prize. Her blue bike was stamped on eco-friendlier disposable bagasse plates and cups perfect for picnicking. (We know it’s still January, and it’s cold outside, but we do have a few sets left if you’re looking to stock up for Spring!)

All of the illustrations that came rolling in with the Summer Picnic Challenge had us in the mood for great art, so for our next call for entries we asked artists to send us their artwork for the Art Contest. We asked our online community to pick their favorites, then sent the top 5 designs to our judges for review. In the end, Mathew Amey’s “Jump Off” leaped into our lineup.

Matthew’s piece was limited edition, and didn’t take long to sell out, but art fans need not worry; our buyers loved his work so much, they’re adding more of his illustrations to our assortment.

After the Art Contest we switched it up just a bit, from art you hang to art you take on the go! Our iPhone Art Case Design Challenge was a huge success. We received a slew of votes and comments in the semi-final round and heard some wonderful feedback from the judges in the finals.

The judges loved the techie feel of Naomi Meller’s computer design and chose it to win the grand prize, but our buyers weren’t quite ready to let go of all of that other great artwork! Several design challenge submissions were selected for our iPhone Art Case Collection and became uncommon goods!

Speaking of art on the go, we couldn’t have a year of design challenges without including a call for wearable art–A.K.A. Jewelery–entries! The winner of our 2012 Jewelry Design Challenge was a little different. Not only do we love Kim Jakum’s excellent craftsmanship and fine attention to detail, we also couldn’t stop talking about the unique (and oh-so-sweet!) personalization element of the piece. Kim’s Personalized Children’s Signature Necklace gives the wearer a chance to capture their little ones’ own handwriting in sterling silver.

Then, last Fall, we switched gears again and asked our design community to think bicycles! Submissions to our Bicycle Lovers Design Challenge included helpful bike tools, custom pieces to deck your ride, cycling wear, and art made out of reclaimed bicycle parts, like Laura White’s winning Bicycle Cog Suncatchers.

Laura’s pieces aren’t only beautiful, they also celebrate the sport of cycling and are made from reclaimed materials, which is always a plus here. In fact, we love reclaiming, recycling, and reusing so much that we decided to build a design challenge around the idea. Our final design challenge of the year focused on upcycling, and we saw some seriously clever creations made from materials that would have otherwise been discarded.

The story behind winner Susan Harbourt’s Forget-Me-Not necklace is almost as compelling as the piece itself! The beautiful copper flowers and the wires keeping them in place actually started out as part of the original electrical wiring in her Edwardian era country home. When she and her husband renovated the house, Susan saved the copper and turned it into a winning design.

Susan’s story of creating something new out of something old is surely inspiring, as are the stories of many of our 2012 winners and semi-finalists. If you’re interested in learning even more about what it takes to be design challenge champ, check out our previous roundup for more success stories or check out these tips from a former design challenge winner.

We hope this stroll around the winner’s circle put you in the mood for creative new creations, whether you’re a designer yourself, or a just someone who loves uncommon design! We’re certainly looking forward to a new year full of new goods. If you’re interested in taking part in an uncommon design challenge, see what we have coming up in the next couple months and stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook to see when and how to submit.

January – Garden Decor Design Challenge
February – Woodworking Design Challenge
March – Art Contest 2013

The Uncommon Life

Positively Inspiring Reusable Graphics

October 30, 2012

Positivity is contagious. Sharing a kind word, a thank you note, or even a smile can start a chain reaction. With this in mind, Amy Humes created her Positive Message Graphics, reusable stickers that let you spread happiness, inspiration, peace, and the power within. We love Amy’s idea so much, we decided to take her message to the web. Feel free to pin, tweet, like, and share these encouraging buttons as reminders that optimism really can go viral.

These Reusable Positive Message Graphics are available as a set of 4 large canvas stickers, so you can place them anywhere where you or a loved one may look when in need of words of encouragement.

The Uncommon Life

Goldilocks & the Three Bears: An Uncommon Story

October 9, 2012

There once was a beautiful collection of handmade children’s accessories by Jen List and Stacy Waddington. The story began with The Three Little Pigs, but those little pink piggies aren’t the only adorable animals in Storybook Land. Before we get to the part where everyone lives happily ever after, we’d like to introduce you to some more cuddly creatures, the stars of chapter two of our uncommon fairy tale, The Three Bears. (And their friend, Goldilocks, of course!)

Storybook Puppets | UncommonGoods

Storybook Purse | UncommonGoods

Storybook Slippers | UncommonGoods

Storybook | Necklace

Storybook Blanket | UncommonGoods

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